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Turkish cosmetic company features al-Qaeda's 9/11 mastermind in bizarre hair removal ad

Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

A Turkish cosmetics company is running this very strange Web ad for a hair removal product, featuring one of the world's most notorious terrorists as a model:

The ad for Epila hair removal product reads, in Turkish, "Waiting won't get rid of that hair!" or, more literally, "The hair will not go away because you keep waiting!" You may recognize the disheveled hairy man in the photo as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Pakistani former al-Qaeda leader who is best known as the mastermind of the September 11 attack.

The photo of KSM is itself quite famous. It was released by the US government shortly after his capture in Pakistan in early 2003. His beard shorn, he certainly looks rough. The photo has become emblematic of both KSM's capture and his subsequent torture at the US's hands; a 2005 Justice Department memo says he was waterboarded 183 times in March 2003 alone. He's still imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay.

KSM is, shall we say, an unlikely figure for a cosmetics model. "From the early 1990s forward, as nearly as we can tell, KSM has done nothing but conceive, plan, and execute terrorist plots," Terry McDermott, author of a book on the man, writes in the Daily Beast. "He himself has admitted responsibility in full or part for 31 separate plots. The true number is probably much larger. He conspired to kill Americans, Pakistanis, Tunisians, Indonesians, Muslims, Christians, and Jews, among many others."

It's hard to say whether the Turkish cosmetics company was aware of who they were using in their ad, and has an extremely tasteless sense of humor, or if they simply googled "hairy guy" and got a spectacularly inappropriate ad. Either way, the big conclusion here is that you should not use notorious terrorists as models in ads. It's just a little awkward.

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